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NAGOYA (Kyodo) The Nagoya District Court sentenced the chairman of a meat importer-wholesaler group Monday to eight years in prison for illicitly obtaining government subsidies in a beef buyback program and evading pork tariffs.

Yoshiharu Fujimura, 63, head of Fujichiku Corp., was also fined 300 million yen for those and other charges.

Presiding Judge Hideki Shibata called the defendant the mastermind behind the scheme, and his subordinates followed his orders.

According to the court, Fujimura defrauded the state out of roughly 1.4 billion yen in subsidies by taking advantage of the buyback program that was introduced after the 2001 outbreak of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in Japan.

He falsely claimed the amount of beef the company had bought and also passed off imported beef as domestic products to be eligible for subsidies designed to aid domestic cattle farmers and distributors hit by the mad cow scare.

Fujimura also conspired with others and evaded about 6.3 billion yen worth of tariffs imposed on pork by falsifying import prices between May 2002 and September 2003, the court said.

Three others who conspired with Fujimura in other cases were given suspended prison terms ranging from 18 months to 2 1/2 years.

Prosecutors sought a 13-year term and 500 million yen fine for Fujimura, while demanding two- to three-year terms for his three coconspirators in the other cases.

Fujimura’s lawyers, meanwhile, argued that the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry had tolerated the situation, since its officials were unable to spot the fraud despite inspecting the beef in question three times.